A public notice from the Federal Communications Commission this week is illustrative in that it shows which vendors expect to reap big rewards from the FCC’s upcoming program to rip and replace Huawei and ZTE equipment from U.S. networks.
Acting FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel has announced a target date of October 29, 2021 to open the reimbursement program filing window. And based on comments from several telecom vendors cited in this week's public notice, they appear keenly interested in the details of the reimbursement program. These vendors include Mavenir, Adtran, Ericsson and Nokia.
On the same day that it issued its public notice, the FCC also finalized its catalog of eligible expenses and estimated costs as part of the rip and replace program.
Mavenir Systems requested that the FCC strike the use of “O RAN” to avoid confusion between open RAN generally and the O-RAN Alliance. (Editor’s Note: Thank you Mavenir! Because this continues to cause a lot of confusion in the industry).
In response, the FCC did make some changes to the wording to try and reduce confusion.
The bigger takeaway is that Mavenir anticipates that ripped-out Huawei and ZTE gear is likely to be replaced with equipment that complies with O-RAN Alliance standards. And that means Mavenir could reap some of the federal money.
In its comments, Adtran suggested incorporating a “country of origin” line item into the funding application to support a “buy American” policy.
The FCC said that it would modify the application to include a question about the replacement equipment manufacturer’s country of origin. However, the FCC said, “When Congress created the Reimbursement Program it did not express a preference for providers to replace covered communications equipment and services with equipment and services provided by U.S. companies.” So the FCC declined Adtran’s “buy American” request.
The bigger takeaway is that Adtran anticipates getting some bucks as providers replace their optical equipment.
Nokia and Ericsson
Nokia asked the commission for a couple of modifications based on timelines. It wanted the FCC to allow applicants to submit cost estimates based on costs incurred over an 18-month project timeline. But the FCC declined that request. “The removal, replacement, and disposal term provided for in the Secure Networks Act and the Commission’s rules ends one year after the participant receives its initial disbursement of support,” stated the FCC. (Editor’s note: This is America where we’re always on a tight deadline!)
Nokia (and also the Competitive Carriers Association) requested a blanket six-month extension of time, noting that many applicants will have difficulty adhering to a one-year deadline for removal, replacement and disposal because under normal circumstances the process would take approximately one to three years.
The FCC declined to give a general six-month extension, saying, “We find it premature to consider a general extension before the Reimbursement Program is even launched and any removal, replacement and disposal terms are established.”
Interestingly, Nokia also requested that the FCC remove fields indicating that applicants selected open RAN solutions because the fields show a preference for open RAN. But the FCC declined that request, saying these questions are merely intended to help it keep track of technology choices by providers. (Editor’s note: Nokia tells the trade press that it likes open RAN).
And finally, Ericsson complained that the preliminary catalog of reimbursable items should be expanded to include Internet of Things (IoT) software licenses for technologies such as M2M, Cat-M1 and Narrowband IoT. But the FCC declined to implement Ericsson’s request because “Internet of Things capabilities is not reasonably necessary for core network operations and therefore is outside of the scope of the catalog."